French president calls for defence of European liberal democracy in face of illiberalism and nationalism.
Emmanuel Macron has likened the political divisions in Europe to a civil war and warned against growing illiberalism on the continent.
In his first speech to the European parliament, the French president called for the defence of a European liberal democracy that offered protection of the rights of its minorities, and attacked those who took their countries out of the EU to pursue fairytale “adventures”, in a passing mention of Brexit.
Joint statement deplores ‘assault on UK sovereignty’ and says only plausible explanation is that Russia is responsible.
The leaders of Britain, the US, Germany and France have released a joint statement strongly condemning the Salisbury nerve agent attack as “an assault on UK sovereignty” and saying it is highly likely Russia was behind it.
The rare united comment from Theresa May, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, released by Downing Street, follows extensive UK efforts to drum up international support for its response to the poisoning of Sergei Skripaland his daughter.
After the statement’s release Donald Trump said that Russia appeared to be behind the attack. “It looks like it,” he told reporters. “I’ve spoken with the prime minister and we are in discussions. A very sad situation. It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it. Something that should never, ever happen, and we’re taking it very seriously, as I think are many others.”
May, speaking on a visit to Salisbury on Thursday, said the statement showed the UK’s allies “are standing alongside us” in protest at Russia’s behaviour.
The statement said the use of novichok “constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the second world war”, noting that the four leaders “abhor the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal”.
“A British police officer who was also exposed in the attack remains seriously ill, and the lives of many innocent British citizens have been threatened,” it read. “We express our sympathies to them all, and our admiration for the UK police and emergency services for their courageous response.
“It is an assault on UK sovereignty and any such use by a state party is a clear violation of the chemical weapons convention and a breach of international law.
“It threatens the security of us all. The United Kingdom thoroughly briefed its allies that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack.
“We share the UK assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia’s failure to address the legitimate request by the UK government further underlines its responsibility.”
The unambiguous tone of the comments about Russia will greatly please British ministers, who have spent the past few days seeking to persuade allies to take this line, notably France, where Macron’s spokesman warned the UK on Wednesday against “fantasy politics”.
Speaking after visiting businesses in Salisbury and speaking to emergency services, May said the four countries were “vey clear in attributing this act to Russia”.
“What is important in the international arena – and we have taken this into Nato, into the United Nations, we’ve taken it through into the European Union – is that allies are standing alongside us and saying this is part of a pattern of activity that we have seen from Russia in their interference, their disruption that they have perpetrated across a number of countries in Europe,” she said.
“This happened in the UK, but it could have happened anywhere and we take a united stance against it.”
Washington’s envoy, Nikki Haley, said: “Let me make one thing clear from the very beginning: the United States stands in absolute solidarity with Great Britain. The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent.”
The joint statement calls on Russia to “address all questions related to the attack” and provide full disclosure of the novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.
“Our concerns are also heightened against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behaviour. We call on Russia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN security council to uphold international peace and security,” it ends.
On Wednesday, May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the UK and a range of other measures to crack down on “corrupt elites”, including new measures to combat spying.
The expulsion was the largest such move since the cold war, and marked a considerable escalation on the expulsion of four diplomats after the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
Earlier on Thursday, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, told BBC News: “There is something in the kind of smug, sarcastic response that we’ve heard that indicates their fundamental guilt. They want to simultaneously deny it, yet at the same time to glory in it.”
He suggested Vladimir Putin had some responsibility for the attack. “There is very little doubt in people’s minds that this is a signature act by the Russia state, deliberately using novichok, a nerve agent developed by Russia, to punish a Russian defector as they would see it, and in the runup to Vladimir Putin’s election.”
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, confirmed Moscow would soon expel British diplomats from the country in a tit-for-tat response, Russian state news agencies reported.
Asked by journalists at a press conference on Thursday whether diplomatic expulsions would be included in a Russian response, he said: “Absolutely.” Asked when those statements would be made public, he said: “Soon.”
“As polite people, we’ll first be delivering our response to our British counterparts,” Lavrov said.
About 3,000 schools across America protest in coordinated riposte
Students step out of classrooms to spur action for change
Thousands of students poured out of classrooms in the US on Wednesday in an unprecedented expression of mourning and a demand for action to stem the country’s epidemic of gun violence.
In a stunning visual riposte to the public inertia that has followed mass shootings in the US, crowds of students at an estimated 3,000 schools across the country marched on running tracks, through parking lots and around building perimeters, carrying signs that read “Enough” and chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, gun violence has got to go”.
The walkout fell one month after a student gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, in the deadliest high school shooting in the country’s history. Survivors of that massacre joined other student activists to organize Wednesday’s demonstration, which was promoted by the Women’s March movement that sprang up after the election of Donald Trump.
“There were lots of emotions, many people were crying. We were thinking of the 17 we lost,” said Florence Yared, a third-year student at Stoneman Douglas, who joined 3,000 of her schoolmates on the school’s football pitch, where exactly one month ago many were running for their lives.
Students elsewhere filled sidewalks in Brooklyn, kneeled in hallways in a Georgia high school, stood silently in a row in Virginia, and sat in a group with backs turned on the White House. Most demonstrations were planned to last 17 minutes, one for each of the Parkland victims.
In some school districts, students gathered against the warnings of administrators. At Booker T Washington high school in Atlanta, Georgia – once attended by Martin Luther King – a public announcement warned that any protester who left school hallways would incur “swift and severe consequences”.
“Dr King carries a legacy even in death,” said Markail Brooks, a senior. “So I feel as if it’s an obligation to carry on what he wanted and what he was trying to fight for and that’s why this day is very important.”
At an elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia, children synchronized their watches and a captain in each room led students outside two minutes before the planned 10am protest start time.
“Some parents have felt that we’re not old enough to know about it,” said one student, Carter, 11, about school shootings. “They think because we’re fifth-graders we don’t know anything about what’s happening.”
Another student, Henry Gibbs, 10, said: “Just the sensation that we are going to make a difference makes me feel proud.”
In Chicago, public schools changed class schedules to accommodate the walkouts, while the archdiocese announced that about 80,000 students at 200 Catholic schools would participate in assemblies to discuss gun violence.
The protesters called for new gun safety legislation, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and the introduction of universal background checks. They also opposed the additional fortification of schools with fences and armed guards, policies endorsed by the NRA, America’s powerful gun lobby group.
The NRA’s “national school shield” proposal to prevent school shootings calls for the “hardening” of school sites with not only armed guards and armed teachers but also the elimination of trees, parking lots and some windows, and the construction of fences.
“Let’s work together to secure our schools and stop school violence,” the NRA said as the walkouts began. Shortly afterwards, the group tweeted a picture of a semi-automatic rifle with an American flag sticker and the caption: “I’ll control my own guns, thank you.”
Neither Trump nor the White House offered a statement.
At the Academy for Young Writers high school in Spring Creek, Brooklyn, New York, students used the walkout to also bring attention to discrimination against people of color, women, and other groups.
“Our protest brings together many things and I do empathize with those in Parkland in Florida, but this is Brooklyn, East New York, and we have our own separate struggles and I wanted to advocate for that as well,” said Nathaniel Swanson, 16.
“We have policing [issues]. Discrimination in housing [and the] workforce. Gentrification is really getting bad in Brooklyn. Gun violence … these are the things that happen in our community.”
The youthful protesters seemed to be the latest indicator that a carapace of resistance to gun policy changes in the United States could be cracking. Recent polling has indicated that as many as seven in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws, the highest such figure in 20 years.
A recent Monmouth University poll found that 83% of Americans support requiring comprehensive background checks for all gun purchasers, including private sales between two individuals. Among NRA members, 69% support comprehensive background checks, the poll found.
The gun policy reform group Everytown for Gun Safety reported a 25% leap in members in the two weeks after the Parkland shooting, and at least 20 corporations changed age limits for buying guns or stopped selling some semi-automatic rifles altogether after the shooting, according to activists.
“While Congress sits on its hands, students like my son will stand and walk out of school this morning to demand action on gun violence,” tweeted Shannon Watts, the founder of the gun safety group Moms Demand Action, on Wednesday morning. “Next we march. Then we vote to #ThrowThemOut.”
Gun safety activists are focused on the midterm elections in November as an opportunity to expunge pro-gun legislators, whose ranks are increasingly out of proportion with the national mood.’
As protesters filled the streets, the Senate judiciary committee convened a hearing on school safety in light of the Parkland massacre. Republican chairman Chuck Grassley gave voice to “the imminence and necessity of passing some legislation quickly” but he hewed in his questioning to minor proposals that even the NRA supports, such as the banning of certain gun accessories.
Multiple gun control bills are currently pending in the US Congress, including bills that fit with the student protesters’ demands relating to assault weapons and background checks. But Congress in the past has repeatedly taken up such legislation only to shelve it, year after year, including in the wake of the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
In Connecticut, Washington and New York, the signs were hoisted by growing hands: “Disarm hate”, Protect kids not guns” and “We call BS.”
On the football pitch in Parkland, Florida, the students listened to a recording of the song Shine – “heaven let your light shine down” – as sympathy banners sent from around the world draped an adjacent building.
Then, 17 minutes later, the students filed back inside.
Assad regime uses barrel bombs and attacks hospitals in rebel-held eastern Ghouta where dozens have been killed and thousands badly injured.
Pro-regime forces continued to bombard the opposition-controlled enclave of eastern Ghouta in Syria on Tuesday, leaving dozens dead, after more than 100 people were killed and hundreds wounded on a day of “hysterical” violence on Monday.
The surge in the killing came amid reports of an impending regime incursion into the area outside Damascus, which is home to 400,000 civilians. More than 700 people have been killed in three months, according to local counts, not including the deaths in the last week.
Five hospitals were also bombed on Monday in eastern Ghouta, which was once the breadbasket of Damascus but has been under siege for years by the government of Bashar al-Assad and subjected to devastating chemical attacks. Two hospitals suspended operations and one has been put out of service.
“We are standing before the massacre of the 21st century,” said a doctor in eastern Ghouta. “If the massacre of the 1990s was Srebrenica, and the massacres of the 1980s were Halabja and Sabra and Shatila, then eastern Ghouta is the massacre of this century right now.”
He added: “A little while ago a child came to me who was blue in the face and barely breathing, his mouth filled with sand. I emptied it with my hands. I don’t think they had what we do in any of the medical textbooks. A wounded child breathing with lungs of sand. You get a child, a year old, that they saved from the rubble and is breathing sand, and you don’t know who he is.
“All these humanitarian and rights organisations, all that is nonsense. So is terrorism. What is a greater terrorism than killing civilians with all sorts of weapons? Is this a war? It’s not a war. It’s called a massacre.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, said 194 people had died in 4o hours – a toll that encapsulated the unbridled violence of the war in Syria. After seven years and interventions by regional and global powers, the humanitarian crisis has heightened instead of abating, as forces loyal to Assad’s regime and his Russian and Iranian backers seek an outright military victory instead of a negotiated political settlement.
Aid workers said the latest violence in eastern Ghouta, where 1,300 people died in 2013 after the Assad regime deployed sarin gas, has included the use of notorious barrel bombs. The weapons are so inaccurate that their use is seen as a war crime by human rights watchdogs. The regime has also used fighter jets and artillery bombardment, on top of the punishing siege.
“The situation in eastern Ghouta is akin to the day of judgment,” said Mounir Mustafa, the deputy director of the White Helmets, the volunteer group that rescues people from under the rubble of bombed buildings.
The White Helmets said one of its volunteers, Firas Juma, died on Monday while responding to a bombing.
In Geneva, the UN children’s fund issued a blank “statement” to express its outrage at the casualties among Syrian children, saying it had run out of words.
Medical organisations said at least five clinics and hospitals, including a maternity centre, were bombed on Monday, some of them multiple times. An anaesthetist was killed in the attacks.
“The bombing was hysterical,” said Ahmed al-Dbis, a security official at the Union of Medical and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), which runs dozens of hospitals in areas controlled by the opposition in Syria. “It is a humanitarian catastrophe in every sense of the word. The mass killing of people who do not have the most basic tenets of life.”
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/EPA/The Guardian, UK/Agencies
Valentine’s Day began in a happy frame of mind for many of the 3,200 students arriving at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, some clutching handmade love hearts for classmates and flowers for their teachers.
Terrified teenagers huddled together with their teachers in classrooms, closets and bathrooms as the gunman, armed with smoke grenades, a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, and wearing a gas mask, moved from room to room, opening fire indiscriminately.
Seventeen people have been killed and 15 hospitalised after gunman attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school.
Here is what we now know about the events that unfolded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday.
Seventeen people – children and adults – were killed when a gunman entered the high school on Wednesday afternoon and launched an attack. Twelve people were found dead inside the school, two were killed outside the building, one in the street, and two died later in hospital from their injuries.
The killer was armed with an AR-15 rifle and “multiple magazines”, police said. He bought the gun legally
Cruz was formerly a student at Douglas, but was expelled for disciplinary reasons. A teacher at the school said staff had been warned not to let him back on campus. The suspect had reportedly been receiving treatment for mental health issues. The FBI was reportedly alerted to a post he made on YouTube claiming “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”
Twelve of those killed have been identified, police said on Wednesday evening. No names of victims have yet been released, but Sheriff Scott Israel said a football coach was among those lost, and the parents of a student named her on Facebook.
Fifteen victims remain in hospital: five in a life-threatening condition and 10 with injuries that are not life-threatening.
Students who had been at school with Cruz said many classmates had predictedhe could “do something” to harm them and that he had previously brought guns to school.
Teacher Melissa Falkowski said drills for a code red (active shooter) situation had been well rehearsed:
We could not have been more prepared for this situation … we have trained for this, we have trained the kids for what to do … We did everything that we were supposed to do.
I feel today like our government, our country, has failed us and failed our kids and didn’t keep us safe.
Distressing messages from children in lockdown inside the school to their parents show the terror as teachers barricaded their students into classrooms and closets to evade the gunman.
President Donald Trump tweeted his “prayers and condolences” to those affected, but decided not to speak about the attack, reports said. On Thursday morning, he tweeted again: “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
But others said thoughts and prayers were not enough. Chris Murphy, senator for Connecticut – site of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, in which 26 children and adults were killed – said:
This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America. This epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting.
It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible.
Asked if the tragedy should lead to stricter gun control for people with mental health issues, a parent replied: “I don’t want to get into a gun debate. I really don’t. What are you going to do? Confiscate everybody’s guns? We have millions and millions of weapons … I’m a gun owner. I don’t want the government taking my gun.”
Michael Irwin, another parent whose son attended the school, shared Crescitelli’s view.
“All the regulation in the world wouldn’t have prevented necessarily what happened today. It’s something that’s tragic, but what regulation can you pass that takes away the guns that are already out there?” he said.
His son was waiting to hear if one of his close classmates was among the dead. By late Wednesday evening, Irwin said, the student was still missing.
Such a perspective was not shared by Israel, who argued during an evening press conference that people with mental health issues should not be able to purchase or use firearms.
Among those absent from the debate was Donald Trump. By the late evening, reports emerged that the president would not be speaking in public about the mass shooting, despite aides advising him otherwise.
Earlier in the day Trump had tweeted a message to send his “prayers and condolences”, adding: “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
SOURCES: The Bloomgist/CNN/New York Times/The Guardian, UK and agencies
President reportedly seeks grand parade in model of France’s Bastille Day celebration, prompting one veterans’ group to call him ‘a wannabe banana republic strongman’.
Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to plan a military parade that would see soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the streets of Washington, it was reported on Tuesday.
The move was instantly criticised, with one veterans’ group comparing the president to “a wannabe banana republic strongman”.
Trump is seeking a grand parade similar to the Bastille Day celebration in Paris, according to the Washington Post. He outlined the plan at a meeting at the Pentagon on 18 January that included defense secretary Jim Mattis and joint chiefs of staff chairman General Joseph Dunford, the paper said, citing an unnamed military official.
“The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” the official told the Post. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”
The White House confirmed that an event is in the works, though it did not offer further details. “President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.”
Trump, who did not serve in the Vietnam war after receiving five draft deferments, has long spoken of his admiration for tough military figures such as General George Patton and frequently makes reference to “my generals”.
Trump told reporters in September: “To a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on the Fourth of July in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue. We’re actually looking into it.”
But not for the first time in Trump’s short political career, such a display is likely to prove divisive. On Tuesday retired general Paul Eaton, senior adviser to VoteVets, a progressive political action committee for military veterans, said: “Donald Trump has continually shown himself to have authoritarian tendencies, and this is just another worrisome example.”
In the past, Eaton noted, Trump has praised the tactics of autocrats such as Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin. He added: “Unfortunately, we do not have a commander in chief right now as much as have a wannabe banana republic strongman.”
Richard Painter, former White House ethics lawyer for George W Bush, tweeted: “Cool. Just like in North Korea and Russia. But what do we do about those traitors who don’t clap during our Dear Leader’s speech?” – a reference to Trump’s criticism of Democrats who did not applaud during his state of the union address.
A date for the event has not yet been chosen. Options include Memorial Day on 28 May, Independence Day on 4 July and Veterans Day on 11 November, which would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war. If the route includes Pennsylvania Avenue, it would pass by Trump’s controversial hotel.
But the Post added: “The cost of shipping Abrams tanks and high-tech hardware to Washington could run in the millions, and military officials said it was unclear how they would pay for it.”
Thomas Crosson, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said: “We are aware of the request and are in the process of determining specific details. We will share more information throughout the planning process.”
Following Trump’s weekend Twitter attacks on Republican Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, the outgoing Senator has launched a counter-attack at the President, describing the White House as an “adult care centre”.
• The Twitter attack
Trump in a series of tweets on Sunday morning said, “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without…..my endorsement). He also wanted to be Secretary of State, I said ‘NO THANKS.’ He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran Deal!.. Hence, I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn’t have the guts to run!”
Senator Bob Corker “begged” me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said “NO” and he dropped out (said he could not win without, hence, I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn’t have the guts to run! – Trump twitted.
• Corker’s epic response
In his own response, Corker wrote in a tweet, “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning”.
It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.
• The beginning of the feud
Trump’s attack is predicated on Corker’s comment on last week’s NBC News report which alleged the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to have described President Trump as a moron. Corker in reference to the report underscored Trump and instead praised his cabinet officials. He told reporters, “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos”.
he North Korea government has mocked the fierce warning issued by US President Donald Trump in his first address at the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
According to The Guardian, Trump in the speech said the US would be forced to “totally destroy” North Korea if pushed to the wall. He also echoed his earlier tweet where he called Kim “rocket man”. The President said, “Rocketman is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.”
According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the foreign minister said, “There is a saying that the marching goes on even when dogs bark,” citing a Korean proverb.
“If he was thinking he could scare us with the sound of a dog barking, that’s really a dog dream,” he added. In Korean, a dog dream is one that makes little sense.
When asked what he thought of Trump’s description of Kim as rocket man, Ri replied, “I feel sorry for his aides.”
Trump’s stern warning came on the heels of North Korea’s defiance at pursuing its nuclear adventure which has seen the regime fired six nuclear missiles, the latest being the launch of two ballistic missiles over Northern Japan.
Meanwhile, varying with China’s continuous push for a dialogue, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, told the UN General Assembly that previous talks had yielded nothing and called for a global blockade that would deny North Korea access to “goods, funds, people and technology” for its missile and nuclear programmes – arguing that sanctions was preferable to negotiation.
Restating his support for US’ position that all options, including military action, remained on the table, Abe said “We must make North Korea abandon all nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner. What is needed to do is not dialogue, but pressure”.
While warning that enough time has passed over the North Korean crisis, Abe cited the failure of a 1994 agreement between the North and the US to freeze Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, and the stalling of six-party talks almost a decade ago was proof the regime would not respond to dialogue.
North Korea had “no intention whatsoever of abandoning its nuclear or missile development. For North Korea, dialogue was instead the best means of deceiving us and buying time. In what hope of success are we now repeating the very same failure a third time?” He added.
South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, equally berated the idea of continued dialogue as posited by China and instead related with Washington’s stand.
In a statement from the presidential Blue House, Moon’s office said he welcomed Trump’s “firm “ speech to the UN. “It clearly showed how seriously the United States government views North Korea’s nuclear programme as the president spent an unusual amount of time discussing the issue,” the statement said.
President Trump has taken aim at former Democrats Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, blaming the former secretary of State for North Korea’s nuclear advances after she berated Trump’s debut speech at the U.N. on Tuesday in New York.
In a tweet referring to former President Bill Clinton as well, Trump wrote, “After allowing North Korea to research and build Nukes while Secretary of State (Bill C also), Crooked Hillary now criticizes”.
After allowing North Korea to research and build Nukes while Secretary of State (Bill C also), Crooked Hillary now criticizes. – ✔@realDonaldTrump
Trump’s tweets came after his 2016 general election opponent ripped his U.N. address, calling it “very dark” and dangerous.
Speaking during an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”, Clinton, said, “When you face dangerous situations like what is happening in North Korea, to make it clear, your first approach should always be diplomatic”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday that UN peacekeepers might be deployed to eastern Ukraine not only on the Donbass contact line separating the sides of the conflict but in other parts where OSCE inspectors work.
Putin, in a phone call with Merkel, gave her a detailed description of Russia’s initiative to establish a UN mission to protect observers from a special OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.
Taking into account the ideas expressed by Merkel, Putin said Moscow was ready to add new functions to this UN mission proposed in the Russian variant of a UN resolution on Ukraine.
The five living former United States presidents have teamed up in an Hurricane recovery effort on Thursday to raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, under a mantra “One America Appeal”.
The campaign is a rare unity in American politics given the party divide, though, former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton had teamed up to help Hurricane Katrina victims which struck New Orleans in 2005, and also a joint force was raised by Bush Jr and Clinton for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake during the Obama regime.
President Trump has however commended and endorsed the actions of his predecessors in a tweet in the early hours of Friday. He wrote, “We will confront ANY challenge, no matter how strong the winds or high the water. I’m proud to stand with Presidents for #OneAmericaAppeal.”
The campaign, jump started with a public service announcement which featured the five former presidents during the first N.F.L. game of the season on Thursday night, with former President George W Bush remarking that, “People are hurting down here”.
The fund-raising effort targets people affected by Hurricane Harvey, which wrecked huge havoc and crippled economic activities in southeastern Texas – a state governed by President W Bush in the 1990s and which also harbored his father within those years.
The campaign will also expand to incorporate the victims of the latest strongest Atlantic Hurricane “Irma” currently ravaging the Caribbean and forecasted to strike South Florida over the weekend and subsequently move to Georgia.
Donations through the fund raising which can also be made online at oneamericaappeal.org, will go to a special restricted account created through the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation, and will be subsequently distributed to two charities, the “Houston Harvey Relief Fund” and the “Rebuild Texas Fund”.
Japan is planning a possible mass evacuation of its citizens in South Korea due to brewing tensions which continues to rise amid threats of nuclear war with North Korea.
According to FOX News, the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe said, “There is a possibility of further provocations. We need to remain extremely vigilant and do everything we can to ensure the safety of our people.”
The Prime Minister’s plan became imperative as North Korea continues to ramp up its threats of nuclear war, coupled with reports that the regime appears to be preparing another ballistic missile launch to show off its capacity to target the U.S.
According to Japanese magazine Nikkei Asian Review, about 60,000 Japanese citizens currently reside in South Korea. Around 38,000 are long-term residents, while roughly 19,000 are tourists or short-term visitors.
A Japanese Government source told Nikkei Review that, “If the U.S. decided on a military strike against the North, the Japanese government would start moving toward an evacuation on its own accord regardless of whether the American plans are public”.
The proposed evacuation plan is comprised of four steps “seeks to limit unessential travel to South Korea, discourage all travel to the South, advise Japanese citizens to evacuate and encourage them to shelter in place”.
The North Korea regime leader, Kim Jong-un has said he will watch the actions of the US before deciding whether to launch missiles towards Guam.
According to KCNA, the North Korea’s official news agency, the leader who received a report from his army on plans to fire missiles towards Guam while inspecting the command of the North’s army on Monday, examined the plan for a long time and discussed it with army officers, said he will watch the actions of the United States before making a decision to fire.
In response to the report, Kim Jong-un ordered the army to be ready to launch should he decide on a military action.
The fierce leader said, “If the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the self-restraint of the DPRK, the latter will make an important decision as it already declared.”
Kim’s words follows the surge in tensions sprouted last week due to his threat of a strike near Guam – an action the US President Donald Trump warned he would unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea if it did so.
The leader further said, “the US should make the right choice in order to defuse the tensions and prevent the dangerous military conflict on the Korean peninsula”.
Trump has since spoken to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe late Monday to discuss the military options about North Korea.
“President Trump reaffirmed that the United States stands ready to defend and respond to any threat or actions taken by North Korea against the United States or its allies, South Korea and Japan,” a White House statement said early Tuesday. and has since spoken to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe late Monday to discuss the military options about North Korea.
The US House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to slap new sanctions on Russia and force President Donald Trump to obtain politicians’ permission before easing any sanctions on Moscow.
The sanctions bill comes as politicians investigate possible meddling by Russia in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion by Republican Trump’s campaign.
New sanctions against Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which stands accused of supporting terrorism, and North Korea, for its missile tests, are also included in the bill backed by house members.
The Republican-controlled Senate passed an earlier version of the bill with near-unanimous support. The House added the North Korea measures after becoming frustrated with the Senate’s failure to advance a bill it passed in May.
Representative Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the three countries “are threatening vital US interests and destabilising their neighbours. It is well past time that we forcefully respond”.
It was unclear how quickly the bill would make its way to the White House for Trump to sign into law or veto.
The bill still must be passed by the Senate, which is mired in debate over efforts to overhaul the US healthcare system as politicians try to clear the decks to leave Washington for their summer recess.
A prominent member of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, Konstantin Kosachyov, responded on Wednesday saying that Moscow should prepare a “painful” response to new US sanctions.
“Judging by the unanimous vote in the US House of Representatives on the sanctions package against Russia, Iran and North Korea, there will be no breakthrough [in U.S.-Russian relations] … In fact, further degradation of bilateral cooperation is becoming inevitable,” Kosachyov said on his Facebook page.
Bill ‘likely to pass’
Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro reporting from Washington, DC, said the bill is likely to pass in the Senate and be on the president’s desk for final approval by the end of the month.
“This was a rare show of bipartisan solidarity in a near unanimous vote and reflects the widespread concern about Trump’s perceived overfriendly relationship with Moscow,” she said.
“If Trump signs the bill, giving it approval, he will acknowledge that Russia did meddle in 2016 US presidential elections.
“But if he does not sign the bill, he faces a political firestorm given that his campaign, his close family members and closest advisers are under investigations in Capitol Hill for their alleged roles of colluding with the Russian government in getting Trump to the White House.”
The intense focus on Russia, involving several congressional probes and a separate investigation by a Justice Department-appointed special counsel, Robert Mueller, has overshadowed Trump’s agenda.
The scrutiny has angered and frustrated the president, who calls the investigations a politically motivated witch-hunt fuelled by Democrats who cannot accept his upset win in last November’s election against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state.
On Tuesday, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spent three hours with the House of Representatives intelligence panel, his second straight day on Capitol Hill answering questions about his contacts with Russians during the campaign.
Kushner had a “very productive session” with the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said after the meeting.
Kushner, who is now a top aide in Trump’s White House, told reporters on Monday he had no part in any Kremlin plot.
US House Republicans on Tuesday rejected a legislative effort by Democrats to obtain Treasury Department documents that could show any ties between the finances of Trump, his inner circle and the Russian government.
Senator John McCain will return to Capitol Hill to vote to keep Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare alive, Tuesday.
According to Reuters, McCain, whose office announced his battle with brain cancer last week, is set to help in the crucial decision making to either keep pushing the Obamacare repeal bill or to trash it. The senators will debate on the Senate floor on a fresh health care plan to overhaul the Affordable health care act known as Obamacare.
President Trump thanked McCain for his return in a tweet early Tuesday, he wrote; “So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave-American hero! Thank you, John”.
McCain’s vote later today is very critical to the Republicans who have been struggling to gather enough votes to repeal the bill since April, a loss today would mean the Senate leaders, would either find another strategy or move on to other legislative matters such as Taxes.
In a White House event on Monday, President Trump chastised the Republicans for their inability to pass the bill to repeal saying they “have not done their job in ending the Obamacare nightmare.
Vice President Mike Pence would be on the hill to step in to vote in the case of a tie.
With bomb-sniffing dogs, bag inspections and rows of metal detectors at the entrance, the modern concert arena is in some ways a fortress.
But the blast that killed 22 people on Monday at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, highlighted the dangers that still exist along the perimeters of these buildings — on the street or in public concourses where concertgoers and others may gather in large numbers, unexamined by any security force.
Investigators say the explosion at Manchester Arena occurred in a foyer just outside the venue’s doors, a space that connects the arena to the nearby Victoria rail station. SMG, the company that manages the arena, said that it is not responsible for policing that space.
The episode immediately recalled the attacks in Paris in November 2015, when gunmen who entered the Bataclan theater during a performance killed 90 people. But Steven A. Adelman, the vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, a trade group, believes that comparison is not quite apt.
“It’s less like the Bataclan than it is the Boston Marathon bombing, which also took place on a public street, surrounded by law enforcement,” Mr. Adelman said. “It was another target-rich environment for someone with bad intent.”
With the Manchester bombing, the multibillion-dollar music touring industry is once again confronting the specter of violence. Last summer, with the Paris attacks still a fresh memory, the singer Christina Grimmie was shot while signing autographs in Orlando, Fla., and in a separate episode in the same city a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub.
Ms. Grande’s tour is scheduled to stop at the O2 arena in London on Thursday and Friday, but neither she nor the arena have said whether those shows would go ahead as planned.
Several concert promoters and security professionals declined to discuss their procedures on Tuesday, for what one promoter called “obvious reasons.”
Still, there is a broader concern in the music industry that no one wants the concert experience to become too militarized.
“Going to see a show or a sporting event as a kid is one of life’s true moments of happiness,” said Jonathan Daniel, whose company, Crush Music, manages artists like Sia, Fall Out Boy and Lorde. “It would be terrible to lose that.”
Wes Westley, the chief executive of SMG, said in an interview that his company has been heightening its security procedures since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. After the Paris attacks in 2015, he said, the procedures were already strict.
“We already had tight security,” Mr. Westley said. “It was hard to get it any tighter. We wouldn’t let people in the building.”
For many of the talent executives and concert promoters who plan tours, Tuesday began with calls from artists debating whether to go forward with their own shows. With sales revenue from recordings still down, musicians now derive more and more of their income from touring, and many say they are under constant pressure to stay on the road.
Marc Geiger, the head of music at William Morris Endeavor, said that the Manchester attack would cause venues and promoters to ratchet up their security measures once again, and that artists would demand more protections — all of which would drive up costs.
But he echoed an optimism voiced by many in the industry on Tuesday, that the concert business would remain vigorously healthy and that fans would still buy tickets to see their favorite acts.
“I don’t believe it is going to end an industry,” Mr. Geiger said of the attacks. “I do believe that in the near term a fear base has been established, which is what terrorism wants to do.”
A terrorist attack hit a pop concert in Manchester on Monday evening. Here is what we know so far:
What has happened?
Police have confirmed that at least 22 people were killed in the explosion at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena. Some of them are children.
Officers said a further 59 people were injured amid reports of at least one explosion that hit the venue shortly after the concert finished.
Theresa May, the prime minister, confirmed the incident was a terrorist attack as she addressed cameras outside Downing Street. Police and security services believe they have identified the bomber, but no name has yet been announced, she said.
It is the deadliest terror attack to hit the UK since the 7/7 London bombings in July 2005.
The first victim has been named as 18-year-old Georgina Callander, her school, Runshaw College, announced.
Police say their priority is to establish whether the killer was acting alone or part of a network.
The police say they believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated.
About 21,000 people are reported to have been at the concert at the time of the explosion.
Multiple witnesses said they heard an explosion, with one saying the blast shook the building, before “everyone screamed and tried to get out”.
A 23-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday morning in south Manchester, the police said. The Arndale Centre shopping mall was evacuated and a man was arrested there but this is unconnected to the attacks, the police said.
Where did it happen?
Manchester Arena said the incident took place “outside the venue in a public space”.
The blast was reported to have hit the foyer of the building at about 10:30pm, British Transport police said.
Victims have been taken to eight hospitals across the Manchester area.
Large parts of the city around the arena have been sealed off. Victoria station has been closed and is expected to be closed throughout Tuesday.
Police have asked the public to avoid Manchester city centre as they continued to work in the area.
Police have carried out a controlled explosion in the Cathedral Gardens area but the item destroyed was not suspicious.
The reactions so far
Theresa May has said her thoughts are with the victims and families of those affected in “what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack”. In a televised appearance outside 10 Downing Street, she attacked the “appalling, sickening cowardice” of the bombing.
The home secretary, Amber Rudd, described the bombing as a “barbaric attack” that targeted “young people, children out at a pop concert”.
May chaired a meeting of the Cobra government emergency committee at 9am and will attend another later today. She will travel to Manchester to meet the chief constable, mayor and emergency services, she said.
Manchester’s new mayor, Andy Burnham, who attended the Cobra meeting via video link, said there would be a vigil in Albert Square on Tuesday evening.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, have expressed their sympathies for the victims.
The US president, Donald Trump, gave a statement from his trip to Israel in which he called the attackers “evil losers”.
General election campaigning has been suspended.
The Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, said additional police would be on duty in London throughout the weekend.
Police have issued a number for people to call if they are concerned about relatives or loved ones: +44 0161 856 9400
Top officials at the Justice Department have interviewed eight candidates to replace the fired James Comey amid demands from lawmakers of both parties for Donald Trump to turn over any recordings he may have of meetings with the former FBI director.
Over the weekend, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with the eight candidates for permanent FBI director, and no more interviews are currently scheduled, according to a U.S official familiar with the process. The potential nominees are:
Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe
Former Justice Department official Alice Fisher
Michael Garcia, a former U.S. Attorney in Manhattan
Fran Townsend, who was homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush
U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson
Adam Lee, the FBI special agent in charge of the Richmond, Virginia, office
Mike Rogers, a former FBI special agent and Republican congressman from Michigan who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Rogers was endorsed over the weekend by the FBI Agents Association, which represents rank and file agents. The group said “it is essential that the next FBI director understand the details of how agents do their important work.” While members of Congress are usually quick to back colleagues for presidential appointments, even the choice of a current or former lawmaker may produce resistance because of the controversy over Comey’s dismissal.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, speaking on NBC, said Trump now “has a duty and obligation to pick somebody beyond reproach outside the political lane” to lead the FBI.
When asked about his colleague Cornyn, Graham said, “It’s now time to pick someone who comes from within the ranks or has such a reputation that has no political background at all that can go into the job on day one.” Even the interview process for Comey’s replacement prompted debate.
Warner also said he’d like to see Comey testify at a public session of his committee. The senator hinted the ousted FBI chief is interested in doing so, after turning down a request to appear behind closed doors. “My expectation is that we will get a chance to hear from him in public,” Warner said.
The meeting comes after Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone last week about the war in Syria for the first time since Trump ordered a missile strike against a Syrian government air base last month after an alleged chemical weapons attack by the regime.
Trump took to twitter to tweet his peaceful intentions concerning relations between United States and the Kremlin.
President Trump on Tuesday fired FBI director James Comey, stripping the man who is responsible for the bureau’s investigation into a collision between Russian and Trump campaign team of his position.
The bombshell announcement that sent ripples of shock and surprise through Washington ends the career of the man who was once seen as the ideal of how a law enforcement officer should behave. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is now the acting director of the FBI.
The Trump administration attributed Comey’s dismissal to his handling of the investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s email sever, but the Democrats would have none of it suggesting Comey was getting too close to the White House with the Russia probe.
In a signed letter released by the White House, Trump informed Comey that he was “hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately,” explaining that he reached the conclusion that Comey is “not able to effectively lead the bureau.”
“It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Trump told Comey in the letter. “I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.”
The former director learned of his dismissal from televisions tuned to the news, as he was addressing the workforce at the FBI office in Los Angeles. Sources said he joked about it to lighten the mood and called his office to confirm.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a letter explaining the grounds for Comey’s dismissal accused Comey of attempting to “usurp the attorney general’s authority” by publicly announcing why he felt the Clinton’s case should be closed without prosecution.
“We should reject the departure and return to the traditions (of the bureau),” Rosenstein said.
“The way the director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.”
Comey was appointed by former President Barack Obama and his tenure was to end in 2023.
Long-term Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti on Monday launched a mass hunger strike against Israel’s detention policies, with more than 1,000 other prisoners joining him.
The open-ended strike has been launched to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day amid calls by detainees for the resumption of prison visits, better medical care and better treatment of female prisoners.
“I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike,” Barghouti, a leader of Fatah group, wrote in The New York Times on Monday.
Barghouti has spent 15 years in prison since being arrested by Israeli forces in 2002, during the Second Intifada, as leader of the ruling Fatah faction’s military wing.
While Israel considers Barghouti a security threat, regular polls by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research consistently show he is the most favored figure among Palestinians to take over from President Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat called on Palestinians everywhere to support the hunger strike.
In a statement on Monday, Erekat said the PLO would continue to try to raise international awareness about the issue.
Palestinian rights groups have also organized protests in several cities to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day and show support for the hunger strikers, including in Jerusalem, Hebron and Ramallah.
According to Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer, there are 6,300 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons.
President Barack Obama has called on Americans to defend their democracy in his farewell speech in Chicago.
“By almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place” than it was eight years ago when he took office, he told thousands of supporters.
But he warned “democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted”.
He implored Americans of all backgrounds to consider things from each other’s point of view, saying “we have to pay attention and listen”.
The country’s first black president, now 55, was first elected in 2008 on a message of hope and change.
His successor, Donald Trump, has vowed to undo some of Mr Obama’s signature policies. He will be sworn into office on 20 January.
Raucous chants of “four more years” from the crowd were brushed aside by the president. “I can’t do that,” he said with a smile. US presidents are limited to two terms by the constitution.President Obama thanked his wife Michelle and daughters Malia (pictured) and Sasha for their sacrifices
“No, no, no, no no,” he said, when the crowd booed the prospect of Mr Trump replacing him.
Striking an upbeat tone, Mr Obama said that the peaceful transfer of power between presidents was a “hallmark” of American democracy.
But, he outlined three threats to American democracy – economic inequality, racial divisions and the retreat of different segments of society into “bubbles”, where opinions are not based on “some common baseline of facts”.
“If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life,” he said to laughter and applause.
In his closing remarks he said he had one final request for Americans as president: “I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.”President Obama said he had “gained a brother” in Vice-President Joe Biden
Returning to Chicago, where he first declared victory in 2008, Mr Obama delivered a mostly positive message to Americans after a divisive election campaign which saw Mr Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Mr Obama said that young Americans – including those who worked on his campaigns, and who believe “in a fair, just, inclusive America” – left him feeling “even more optimistic about this country than I was when we started”.
In choosing Chicago, Mr Obama had earlier said he wanted to return to “where it all started” for him and First Lady Michelle Obama, instead of delivering the speech from the White House.
‘An elegantly worded warning’, by Nick Bryant, BBC New York correspondent
“Yes we can. Yes we did.” A bookend to the speech he delivered on the night he won the presidency in Grant Park, Chicago, Barack Obama’s farewell address contained much of the same hope and optimism that were hallmarks of his candidacy while at the same time outlining his legacy.
But it was also an elegantly worded warning: about the country’s broken politics, its naked partisanship, its stark economic inequalities, its social and racial dislocation.
Though he did not mention the President-elect by name, much of it obviously read like a rebuttal to Donald Trump’s campaign.
Obama called for respect for the science of climate change and drew one of his biggest applause lines when he noted: “I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans.” The line “democracy can buckle when we give in to fear,” could easily be interpreted as being aimed at Donald Trump.
This speech highlighted a stark difference between the two men: Obama’s preference for delivering reflective and historically literate orations, and Trump’s penchant for expressing himself in Tweets.
Mr Obama said that it was in Chicago as a young man, “still trying to figure out who I was, still searching for purpose in my life”, that he “witnessed the power of faith and dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss”.
“This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved and they get engaged and they come together to demand it,” he said. “After eight years as your president I still believe that.”
Some 18,000 people attended the farewell address at McCormick Place, the largest convention centre in North America and the venue for Mr Obama’s speech after he defeated Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.
The tickets were given out free, but were selling online for more than $1,000 (£820) each hours ahead of the speech.
As he leaves the Oval Office, President Obama is viewed favourably by 57% of Americans, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, a similar level to Bill Clinton when he left office.
Barack Obama’s final speech – in quotes
After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10, or 20, or 30 years ago.
On his achievements
If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history… If I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons programme without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11… If I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens – you might have said our sights were set a little too high.
On Michelle Obama
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the South Side, for the past 25 years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for and you made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humour. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.
Attacker shouted ‘Don’t forget Aleppo’ after opening fire on ambassador
Putin says ‘provocation’ aimed at sabotaging Russo-Turkish relations
The Russian ambassador to Turkey has been shot dead by a police officer who shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo” as he pulled the trigger.
The chilling attack on Monday evening, which was captured on video, appeared to be a backlash against Russian military involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Andrei Karlov was attacked at the opening of an art exhibition in Ankara by a man believed to be an off-duty Turkish police officer. Karlov was several minutes into a speech when he was shot. Footage of the attack showed a man dressed in a suit and tie standing calmly behind the ambassador. He then pulled out a gun, shouted “Allahu Akbar” and fired at least eight shots.
After firing at the ambassador, the man shouted in Turkish: “Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria. Unless our towns are secure, you won’t enjoy security. Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay a price.”
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, called the killing a “provocation” aimed at sabotaging a rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara and attempts to resolve the conflict in Syria.
“The crime that was committed is without doubt a provocation aimed at disrupting the normalisation of Russian-Turkish relations and disrupting the peace process in Syria that is being actively advanced by Russia, Turkey and Iran,” he said in televised comments.
Putin said: “There can be only one answer to this – stepping up the fight against terrorism, and the bandits will feel this.”
Putin said that Russian officials would be dispatched to Ankara to investigate the killing. “We have to know who directed the hand of the killer,” he said.
His comments were echoed by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov who said, following a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusgolu, that those behind the shooting “were seeking to derail the process of normalising Russia-Turkey ties primarily with a goal to prevent an efficient fight against terrorism in Syria.”
Lavrov will meet with the foreign ministers of Iran and Turkey later on Tuesday to discuss Syria.
The attacker was killed by Turkish special forces after they surrounded the gallery. Photographs from the aftermath appeared to show him lying dead on the floor. Three other people were wounded.
Local media outlets said security guards at the scene had told them that the killer showed a police ID to enter the gallery. The Turkish interior ministry named the attacker as Mevlut Mert Altıntas, an officer in Ankara’s riot police squad, who was born in 1994 in Aydin and graduated from Izmir police academy.
The shooter’s family home in the western province of Aydin was later searched and his mother, father and sister were detained, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency. . Altıntas’s house in Ankara was raided and his roommate, also a police officer, was also taken into custody, it said.
“It has saddened us and our people. I offer my condolences to the Russian federation and the Russian people,” Suleyman Soylu, the Turkish interior minster, told reporters.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, called Putin on Monday evening to brief him on the attack.
The Russian president cancelled a planned trip to the theatre on Monday evening and called an urgent meeting with his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the heads of the security services.
In a bizarre coincidence, Putin had planned to see the play Woe from Wit, written by the poet and diplomat Alexander Griboyedov, who was murdered by a mob when ambassador to Tehran in 1829.
Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign relations committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said: “A tragedy of this scale has not happened since the time of Griboyedov. There have been attacks on our Russian and Soviet diplomats, but not something this dramatic.”
Kosachev said the repercussions of the killing on Russian-Turkish relations would depend on the details of the incident: “It could have been a planned terrorist attack by extremists or it could be the work of a lone maniac. After we know, we’ll be able to understand how this will affect Russian-Turkish relations.”
Kosachev’s counterpart in the lower house, Alexey Pushkov, said Karlov’s death was “a result of political and media hysteria around Aleppo sown by the enemies of Russia”.
Turkish security officials and Erdoğan supporters have alleged that the gunman was linked to the exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom they accuse of orchestrating a failed coup in July. A spokesman for Gülen described the accusation as “laughable” and told Reuters that it was intended to cover up for lax security.
Later on Monday a gunman had attempted to enter the US embassy in Ankara and fired eight shots into the air. The man was overpowered by security guards and taken into custody by police. No one was hurt in the incident. The embassy said its missions in Ankara, Istanbul and the southern city of Adana would be “closed for normal operations on Tuesday.”
Internationally, the killing of Karlov throws into doubt the ongoing evacuation deal for civilians in besieged east Aleppo, an agreement that was brokered by Turkey and Russia. A source with knowledge of the negotiations said Moscow was the main reason the deal did not fall apart over the weekend, despite the objections of Iranian and jihadi interlocutors.
The ambassador had been part of discussions with Turkey that led to an evacuation of east Aleppo getting under way late last week. Russia and Iran engineered the deal allowing civilians and rebel fighters in Aleppo to be evacuated, with Turkey acting as the brokers for the Syrian opposition in the discussion.
The attack comes the day before the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, is due in Moscow for Syria talks with his Russian and Iranian counterparts. In the weeks running up to the fall of east Aleppo, the Russians, Turks and Iranians have increasingly been working together on Syria’s future, to the exclusion of western powers, including the US, as well as the Gulf states, normally the sponsors of the Syrian opposition.
Many Syrian opposition figures fear they will be marginalised by the Putin initiative and his new triumvirate.
In his time as ambassador, Karlov presided over a rocky period in Russo-Turkish relations. When Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane in November 2015, Moscow responded furiously, with Putin calling it “a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists”.
Earlier this year, the pair reconciled, after Erdoğan wrote a letter of apology to Putin. The two leaders met at a summit in August amid a distinct thaw in relations and in what resembles a loose anti-western alliance.
Kosachev, who knew Karlov personally, said: “The Turkish period in his career saw fantastic highs and lows. Everyone was hoping for another high.”
However, Russian actions in Syria have angered many Turks. In recent days, protests in Istanbul against Russian involvement in Syria and Aleppo, including a demonstration in front of the Russian consulate on the city’s famed İstiklal Avenue, have occurred on a regular basis. The protests have often had a significant Islamist contingent.
The assassination of the Russian ambassador, and the security lapse that allowed it to happen, will anger Putin but, in the medium term, it is possible that the two leaders could unite in an anti-terror alliance.
Karlov was a career diplomat who had previously served as ambassador to North Korea. The British ambassador to Turkey, Richard Moore, described him as a “quietly spoken, hospitable professional”.
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Guardian/Business Insider
An explosive called Tannerite, which is used in target practice and is readily available in sporting goods stores, was the explosive element used in the West 23rd Street device, federal officials said. It was also suspected to have been used in the unexploded device.
Investigators are looking at links between the incidents and the pipe bomb that exploded in New Jersey on Saturday.
On Sunday night, FBI agents stopped “a vehicle of interest in the investigation” into the Manhattan explosion, according to an FBI spokeswoman, Kelly Langmesser. A government official and a law enforcement official who were briefed on the investigation told the Associated Press that five people in the car were being questioned at an FBI building in lower Manhattan.
The Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, told a crowd in Colorado that “a bomb went off” before officials released details. He told the crowd “we’d better get very tough, folks”.
Authorities are trying to establish whether there are any links between the devices and a mass stabbing in St Cloud, Minnesota. At least nine people were injured in the Minnesota attack and the suspect was shot dead by an off-duty police officer. None of the injured sustained life-threatening wounds. A statement posted online by the Isis-linked Amaq agency said the perpetrator was a “soldier of the Islamic State”, though the FBI said no link with the group had been found.
Five more suspected devices found in New Jersey
Five suspected explosive devices have been found in a backpack near a train station in New Jersey as the security alert gripping America ratcheted up following the Manhattan bombing.
One of the devices exploded when a bomb squad robot tried to disarm it near Elizabeth train station, the local mayor said.
Christian Bollwage said the device exploded shortly after 12.30am on Monday. The FBI was leading the investigation and working to disarm the other four devices.
Bollwage told CNN: “The robots that were going in to disarm it cut a wire and it exploded. I don’t know the technological aspect of that. I know there are other devices. I don’t know what they are made up of but they are going to have to be removed and all the fragments from the other pieces are going to have to be picked up so the FBI can investigate this fully.”
He told NBC: “Based on the loudness, I think people could have been severely hurt or injured if they had been in the vicinity.”
There were no reports of injuries. Bollwage said to expect more detonations.
He said two men had called police and reported seeing wires and a pipe coming out of a package after finding it at about 8.30pm on Sunday.
New Jersey Transit said services were suspended between Newark Liberty airport and Elizabeth while New Jersey-bound Amtrak trains were being held at New York Penn station.
Mike Whitaker, an FBI spokesman in Newark, said: “We are responding with our local law enforcement partners,” but declined to give further details.
Investigators earlier said the bomb that rocked Chelsea neighbourhood in Manhattan contained residue of an explosive often used for target practice as investigators followed multiple leads into the attack.
Trump and Clinton responses to New York bombing prompt fierce debate
Saturday night’s bombing on 23rd Street in New York brought questions of experience and temperament to the fore in the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, after the Republican seized on the explosion to argue the US is in peril.
At a campaign rally in Colorado on Saturday night, Trump declared the explosion to have been caused by a bomb, hours before police voiced any public conclusions. “Just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows exactly what’s going on,” Trump said.
The Trump campaign has not said whether the businessman received information privately from New York officials or was speculating without evidence. In contrast, Clinton did what most officials do after an uncertain and dangerous incident: urge caution and patience for conclusions from police.
“I think it’s important to know the facts about any incident like this,” she told reporters on her campaign plane. “That’s why it’s critical to support the first responders, the investigators who are looking into it trying to determine what did happen.
“I think it’s also wiser to wait until you have information before making conclusions because we are just in the beginning stages of trying to determine what happened.”
Two hours after Trump’s remarks, New York mayor Bill de Blasio described the bombing, which injured 29 people, as “an intentional act”. But De Blasio, NYPD commissioner James O’Neill and Governor Andrew Cuomo all stressed on Sunday that they have not found evidence so far of any link to international terrorism and are considering any suspect and motive.
On Sunday afternoon, Clinton called the bombing one of three “apparent terrorist attacks” alongside pending investigations into pipe bombs in New Jersey and a mass stabbing in Minnesota. The FBI is investigating the stabbing as a “potential terrorist attack”; police have ascribed no motive or suspect to the pipe bombs, which officials said on Sunday had not been established to be linked to the New York explosion.
“I pray for all of those who were wounded, and for their families,” Clinton said in a statement. “Once again, we saw the bravery of our first responders who run toward danger to help others. Their quick actions saved lives.”
Clinton then reiterated her outline for an anti-terror plan, including an “intelligence surge to help identify and thwart attacks” and “work with Silicon Valley to counter propaganda”. Both Clinton and Trump’s proposals largely mirror the counter-terrorism priorities of Barack Obama, who has waged a bombing campaign abroad and authorized extensive surveillance online.
In a new column, we find the bogus stories, clickbait and disinformation framed as legitimate ‘trending’ news by one of the most powerful companies on Earth.
In the weeks since Facebook fired the humans who curated its “trending” news feed, its algorithmic floodgates opened up for fake stories, conspiracy theories and internet bile. This week, the company insisted it is a “neutral” platform that needs no editors, even while it censored art, spread false news and deleted a post by Norway’s prime minister because it included a Pulitzer-winning photo from the Vietnam war. The leader had called for Facebook to “review its editing policy”, and the company eventually restored the post.
In a semi-regular column, we’ll highlight what Facebook doesn’t want to: the bogus stories, clickbait and disinformation being framed as legitimate news by one of the most powerful tech companies on Earth.
September 11 conspiracies
As the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history nears, false stories alleging proof of a conspiracy have found a home in Facebook’s trending box. In this example, spotted byJessica Contrera at the Washington Post, Facebook linked to a tabloid, the Daily Star, which has also published accounts of alien moon bases and Hillary Clinton coughing up “alien eggs”.
The post in question links to article in Europhysics News, by a professor who left Brigham Young University in disgrace and a retired professor and two longtime 9/11 truthers. In a short disclaimer, the magazine editors carefully distanced themselves from the article, noting that “it contains some speculation”. “Obviously, the content of this article is the responsibility of the authors,” they wrote.
The article’s major contention is that the official investigation into the physics of the attack were not comprehensive enough, followed by a long discussion of the resemblance between how the towers fell and techniques of controlled demolition. The footage cited by the Daily Star was “made by people with a similar theory” and does not in fact prove anything. For over a decade top engineers have disproven such conspiracy theories.
Clinton health conspiracies
Facebook has also been boosting stories that allege, without evidence, worries about Hillary Clinton’s health. The main story being shared is hosted by a marketing firm, PR Newswire, which has spread a press release by a group of conservative doctors who call themselves the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
Unlike her rival Donald Trump, Clinton has released fairly detailed medical records. There is no evidence to suggest the 68-year-old should be worried about her health.
Flight of the Obamas
Nieman Lab’s Joseph Lichterman caught fake news in the “related articles” section of Facebook’s trending stories, in this case a completely fictitious story on a conservative site that has similarly invented stories blaming the president for the murders of police officers.
Rightwing media drama
Facebook also recently spread a three-paragraph “breaking” post on the websiteConservative 101, which claimed that Fox News host Megyn Kelly “is on the way out”. Kelly reportedly spoke with lawyers investigating claims of sexual harassment by former Fox chairman Roger Ailes, who left the network following allegations by several women of years of abuse. Kelly still works for Fox News.
The author, a prolific writer known only as Justin, has rattled off similarly mendacious posts about how Hillary Clinton “can’t read” and how quarterback Colin Kaepernick was “benched” for his protests over police brutality.
Elsewhere in the dramatic world of rightwing media, Facebook boosted a blogposthailing Meghan McCain, daughter of Arizona senator John McCain, for having “set fire to Hillary’s Campaign”. The short post contains no actual news, only praise for comments made by McCain on Fox News, where she briefly expressed disbelief about FBI findings into Clinton’s email practices. The post does not mention that she has also rejected the Republican party’s nominee, Donald Trump.
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Guardian UK/Washington Post/Daily Star/Facebook
An elderly Canadian couple who have been married for 62 years have been forced to live in separate care homes.
A photo of Wolfram Gottschalk, 83, and his wife, Anita, 81, went viral after their granddaughter shared their story.
Ashley Baryik, 29 said her grandparents have been separated because there is no room for both of them at the same home in Surrey, British Columbia.
Mr Gottschalk, who has been diagnosed with lymphoma, is on a waiting list to move into the same home as his wife.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Ms Baryik posted a touching image of her “Omi and Opi” wiping away tears as they held hands, adding that it was “the saddest photo I have ever taken.”
The image has been shared more than 6,000 times online.
Ms Baryik explained that her grandparents were separated in January when Mr Gottschalk went to hospital for congestive heart failure.
While waiting to be placed in nursing home, his wife, Anita, also applied for senior assisted living with the aim of joining her husband.
Mrs Gottschalk was placed in a home first while her husband was moved to a transitional facility, where he continues to wait for an open bed at his wife’s home.
“It’s heartbreaking for my grandmother, she wants to bring her husband home every night,” Ms Baryik told the BBC.
The couple, who have lived apart for eight months, cry every time they are able to see each other, she added.
“It’s been emotionally draining for both of them.”
Ms Baryik said she appealed for help on Facebook after Mr Gottschalk was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier this week, bringing a new sense of urgency to reunite the couple.
The family blamed the couple’s separation on “backlogs and delays by our health care system”.
Ms Baryik said the family’s pleas to Fraser Health had not been answered over the last eight months, but a spokeswoman contacted them on Thursday to say that finding her grandfather a bed was their number one priority.
The outpouring of support, Ms Baryik said, has been overwhelming, but the family refuses to take donations in order to keep the focus on Canada’s senior care system.
“Taking money defeats the purpose for fighting for families who can’t afford privatised beds,” she said.
“We want everyone’s focus to be on fixing the system rather than raising money and putting a band-aid on the issue.”
Police officer who had 40 knives removed from stomach says knife swallowing became a habit after enjoying first one
An Indian police officer who spent two months swallowing knives and had 40 of them surgically removed has said “spiritual powers” made him do it.
The man underwent a successful five-hour operation to remove the knives from his stomach in the northern city of Amritsar after complaining to doctors of severe abdominal pain.
“I don’t know why I did it but there was some spiritual power behind it,” the 42-year-old told Agence France-Presse from Amritsar in Punjab state, declining to be named.
“It started in June when I swallowed the first knife and I enjoyed the feeling. It soon became a habit,” he said.
Doctors said they initially thought the father of two was suffering from a tumour after body scans showed a large solid mass.
But on further investigation, they discovered dozens of folding knives with metal and wooden handles and measuring up to 7in (18cm) unfolded.
“We immediately prepared him for surgery and removed the knives. There was bleeding as some of them were unfolded,” Rajinder Rajan, one of the surgeons at Corporate hospital, told AFP.
Rajan said he suspected the patient, who told doctors he passed two more knives in his stools, had mental health problems.
He was recovering well from Friday’s surgery but would undergo a psychological assessment before being discharged from hospital, Rajan said.
Doctors were not ruling out the possibility that he had pica disorder in which the sufferer feels compelled to consume non-edible things.
But the man said he would not do it again.
“I consumed a knife a day for about two months. I never felt it was going to harm me but when it pained, I came to the hospital. I will not repeat it. I am glad they saved my life and I want to go back to my family.”
African countries want all arrest warrants and pending legal proceedings against the continent’s dignitaries suspended indefinitely.
The recommendation from the meeting of spy chiefs from 51 African states concerns both indictments and pending suits from individual countries applying the Universal Jurisdiction and the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“Member services renew the African Union (AU) appeal for Moratorium on all pending arrest warrants and prosecutions filed against African leaders or other high-ranking officials until discussions among stakeholders are concluded and the current stalemate is resolved,” the document dubbed the Kigali Declaration and classified as confidential, reads.
The heads of intelligence services said they were alarmed by the frequency of “selective indictments and threats of arrest warrants against African leaders” by the Western judges, which they say threatened to reverse Africa’s progress towards stability.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that any move to halt the implementation of the universal jurisdiction was against the rights of victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“We have seen again and again that national courts are often unable or unwilling to prosecute such crimes,” said Ms Elise Keppler, the associate director of the International Justice Programme at HRW.
Cases that would be affected were the call to be considered include that of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his former Minister for National Defence Raheem Muhammad Hussein.
Their cases were still at the Pre-Trial stage and will remain so until they are arrested and surrendered to the court because the ICC does not try individuals unless they are present in the courtroom.
Also targeted are the cases pending in different European countries, mainly against individuals from their former colonies.
France has the biggest number, with more than two dozen targeting Rwandan nationals, including nine arrest warrants against Kigali officials and senior officers of the defence forces, for their alleged role in the assassination of former President Juvenal Habyarimana.
It was the second collective attempt by African states to pause prosecution of African big shots.
The July 2008 the general assembly of the AU had tasked the international community “in particular the EU States”, to halt the indictments against African leaders until “all the legal and political issues have been exhaustively discussed between the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations”.
A move for collective withdrawal from the ICC by African states failed in Kigali after some countries expressed reservations.
Given the incessant chaos of the past couple of months, it has been a comparatively quiet week in British politics.
Other than the news that, as a 30-year-old, I have about as much chance of owning my home as I do of winning a Queen Latifah lookalike competition, or the unlikely news that McDonald’s has claimed the moral high ground among burger vendors simply by not conspiring to deport migrant workers, it has been a calmer week. In many ways, it has been all quiet on the Brexit front.
So where should we in the humour community turn for news nuggets that we can consume, digest and subsequently defecate out as sweet satire? We hungrily look to the US in hope – and we are not disappointed.
DONALD TRUMP WAS HECKLED BY A BABY. Yes, the joke-candidate-turned-actual-presidential-nominee has been heckled by a baby. At a rally in Virginia, Trump’s speech was temporarily interrupted by an infant’s tears. Trump was initially calm, telling its mother: “Don’t worry about that baby. I love babies. I hear that baby crying, I like it. What a baby, what a beautiful baby. Don’t worry, don’t worry.” (Incidentally, it is only when you transcribe Trump’s remarks verbatim that you realise the extent to which his speech patterns are truly weird. They bear no resemblance to normal conversation; they are rhythmically unique, like avant-garde jazz. Trump is the Miles Davis of talking.)
Trump soon lost his patience and uttered a phrase soon to be added to the canon of soaring American oration. To a book that contains Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” and Franklin D Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, we can now add: “You can get the baby out of here.”
I have to admit, watching the footage, I sympathised with him. As a a standup comedian, I have been exposed to a wide variety of heckles, from “This is awful”, to “Get a real job”, and “You’re a huge disappointment to me and your mother”. So may I humbly suggest a few stock comebacks from the comedian’s handbook: “Hey Baby, I don’t come down to where you work and cry and shit myself”; “Hey Baby, douchebag says ‘wah wah’ – you said it! That means you’re a douchebag!”; “Hey Baby where did you learn to whisper? In a helicopter for babies? ZING!”
I have always felt a huge amount of kinship with Trump. We have a lot in common. We both have big hair, we have both been on television, and neither of us should, under any circumstances, become president of the United States.
One of the issues here is that we don’t know if the baby was wailing supportively, or if they were cries of dissent. A group of protesters were also removed from the rally. Perhaps this baby was one of them? If so, Trump may have finally met his match.
Throughout this campaign, Trump has responded to criticism of his bellicose rhetoric with garbled nonsense. He alleged that Mexican-American judge Gonzalo Curiel was being unfair on him in the Trump University court case because: “He’s proud of his heritage. I respect him for that.” Then, last week, he responded to Khizr Khan’s Democratic convention speech about his Purple Heart-winning Muslim American soldier son, Humayun, by attacking Khan’s wife, Ghazala. “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”
But how can he compete with criticism that takes the form of non-verbal shrieking? You can’t beat a baby in a nonsense contest. They literally make no sense. This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an incoherent object. It’s a political match-up for the ages. I look forward to this being dramatised. Perhaps Peter Morgan could get to work on Trump/Baby. It could have the same cast as Frost/Nixon but with Frank Langella as Trump and Michael Sheen as the baby. It’s a tricky role for a 47-year-old man but Sheen could pull it off; the guy is a chameleon.
The Democrats should absolutely sign the baby up – it could prove an invaluable asset in the coming months. In fact, if Hillary Clinton hadn’t already picked Tim Kaine as her running mate, I’d imagine this kid would be all over the ticket. It would have gone some way to offsetting Clinton’s serious demeanour and decades of political experience, both of which seem to be hampering her candidacy in the eyes of much of the US electorate.
The baby has no vested interests and is not susceptible to the lure of corporate America, aside from the powerful nappy lobby and the Breastmilk Industrial Complex. Also, vice-president is probably the right level. Given the scepticism towards an incredibly qualified woman, I’m not sure the US is ready for its first baby president.
There has been more criticism for Trump. John McCain, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie criticised Trump’s remarks towards the family of Captain Khan, which is frankly too little too late, especially as none has withdrawn their endorsements. (Trump, meanwhile, repaid the favour by suggesting he won’t endorse McCain or Ryan in their own re-election campaigns). In the context of everything he has said so far, criticising the family of a man who died fighting for his country is entirely unsurprising. These men all endorsed Trump’s candidacy for their own political gain. They have sown a misery we may soon all be forced to reap. Just by expressing some dissent, the baby has shown more courage and political conviction than the entire Republican leadership. And for that, if nothing else, the kid’s got my vote.